Graceful exits from IT: Why CIOs decide to move on

What do you do after reaching the pinnacle of IT management? If you're like these CIOs, you leave. Here's where they went, and why.

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"If, as the CIO, you can work with your colleagues in marketing, sales and operations, if you can show how things can be merged and improved, you have big opportunities," says Hugos, a 2006 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders honoree.

That's the kind of advice Hugos has been giving to CIOs as a consultant since he stopped working as a CIO himself. His position was cut, and he started a consulting and CIO-at-large business, the Center for Systems Innovation in Chicago. He also writes about CIOs and enterprise IT (including an occasional column for Computerworld). He's currently working on his eighth book, about IT agility.

These days, Hugos says he would rather coach CIOs than be one again. "The CIO role has changed," he says. "Things like the care and tending of hardware are not as important today because of cloud options. It really is about strategy. We are going through an acceleration of technology and societal changes that no previous time has equaled. I have empathy for what a lot of CIOs are going through."

Jesus Arriaga, 49, who served as CIO for networking vendor Spirent Communications and for auto parts vendor Keystone Automotive Industries, likewise turned to consulting instead of accepting a relocation with Keystone that wasn't to his liking.

"I had always done IT consulting between jobs, so I decided to pursue it full time," says Arriaga, a 2005 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders honoree. In July 2007, he started CIO Strategic Solutions, a Glendora, Calif., firm that provides senior CIO consulting and interim CIO services to companies of all types and sizes.

"If I had to nail one thing that has been consistently different, it's that as a consultant CIO, they actually listen to you," Arriaga says. "There is something in the minds of the execs and people I help that creates an openness to listening to the recommendations I'm bringing to the table. I've enjoyed that creativity the most."

When Phil Farr opened his consultancy, Dallas-based Farr Systems, in 2006, he drew upon four years of experience as a CIO at security firm Brink's and 11 years as director of IT at the former Fina Oil and Chemical Co. Immediately after leaving Brink's, Farr, 65, ran a food company for three years and then became a CIO consultant with the Tatum professional services firm in Dallas before heading out on his own.

So why did he leave his role as a CIO?

One reason was the toll of travel. "I traveled in 54 countries for Brink's and throughout Europe for Fina," he says, whereas most of the work he does now is local or at least U.S.-based.

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